Friday, May 31, 2013

Just hanging out at the Manchaug Dam - Eastern Painted Turtle!

Commonly seen sunning themselves on rocks or logs along the shore and in the coves of Manchaug Pond are sun turtles otherwise known as the Eastern Painted Turtle, Chrysemys picta picta.

Here's more information from Connecticut Wildlife:

These turtles are highly aquatic. They prefer shallow, slow-moving streams and rivers with muddy bottoms and weedy shallow ponds. 

Eastern painted turtles nest in May or June. A female digs a flask-shaped nesting cavity, about 4 inches deep, in sandy soil in a warm, sunny spot. She lays 2 to 20 elliptical eggs. After laying she may push leaves and grass over the spot to camouflage it. One of the rare times a painted turtle leaves the water is to locate a nesting site. Females are vulnerable to being run over if they cross roads to find a good spot. They can produce 2 to 4 clutches annually in warmer climates, but produce 1 to 2 farther north. Incubation takes 10 to 11 weeks. Most of the hatchlings overwinter in the nest and come out in spring, usually at night. When they emerge they head for water. It is believed that the increased reflection of light from water surfaces into the night sky is what guides newly emerged turtles to water. Female turtles reach sexual maturity at 4 to 8 years, males at 2 to 4 years. An eastern painted turtle's lifespan is over 30 years. 

The gender of baby painted turtles is determined by the temperature of the eggs during a particular stage of development. This is common for many turtle species. Low temperatures and high temperatures seem to produce all females while moderate temperatures produce all males. The temperature within a natural nest can vary, so a clutch can produce mixed gender babies. 

 These turtles hibernate for the winter buried in mud on the bottom of lakes, ponds or streams. These turtles are active for more of the year than many freshwater turtles, but in New England will spend at least 4 months in hibernation. Painted turtles are active during the day and sleep on the river bottom at night. They spend many hours of the day basking in the sun on partially submerged rocks or logs. 
Turtles cannot regulate their body temperature internally and must warm themselves in the sun. The turtles often bask in the morning, spend some time hunting food, then return to bask again in the afternoon. You often see several turtles piled atop one another on a favorite basking spot.

Painted turtles are omnivorous but young turtles tend to be more carnivorous while older turtles eat more plant matter. 

Unlike most turtles, painted turtles shed the scales, or scutes, on their shells. One can sometimes see one with scutes that appear to be in the process of flaking off. 

Click here for more information from Wikipedia.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Water Quality: MPF Secures Second Grant

Yesterday, we received a "green light" from MassDEP to begin the Manchaug Pond Water Quality Improvement - Phase 2 grant project.  Our paperwork is complete, we are good to go!

Phase 1 project - Pervious pavers installed at the state boat ramp.
Last October, we received news that of the 14 proposals submitted, Manchaug Pond Foundation's was one of seven projects to be recommended to the US EPA for funding through the 'FFY13 319 Nonpoint Source Competitive Grants Program. Earlier this year our final scope, budget, and timeline were accepted and this month our final paperwork was completed.  Of the total $1.4 million, Manchaug Pond will receive $119,865 with MPF responsible for matching
Phase 1- Catch basin installed on lake roadside
with time and services for a total project budget of $208, 525.

Phase 1 project - Rain garden captures runoff preventing erosion
This grant will also allow additional Nonpoint Source (NPS) improvements in the watershed to help improve the water quality of Manchaug Pond and ultimately the Mumford and Blackstone Rivers.

The phase 2 project, like the phase 1, will install a number of stormwater BMP structures immediately around the pond in both towns of Sutton and Douglas: leaching catch basins on Old Mill Rd; bioretention area on Manchaug Rd.; vegetated swales and more on Lackey Rd. and Holt Rd in Sutton and on Parker and Bigelow Roads in Douglas.

  Agricultural efforts will extend beyond education and work directly with a large farm operation to provide technical services for the design and implementation of agricultural BMPs and utilize the farm store location for a demonstration rain garden to educate customers.  Another educational component targets children and elementary groups providing NPS education and promoting watershed awareness.

Phase 1 project - Small roadside rain garden filters stormwater pollutants from street.
A huge thanks to all those on the MPF Board of Directors involved in the submission and execution of this grant, to the many teachers and various other educators who wrote letters of support, to our local farm for its total cooperation in promoting these goals with its customers, and to the towns of Douglas and Sutton for working with us in the installation of the roadside structures... all to improve the water quality of Manchaug Pond!  Thank you and stay tuned for updates and photos of our progress!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

A thought for today..

A look at Manchaug Pond through the eyes of today's gloomy weather:

A look at Manchaug Pond through the efforts of the Manchaug Pond Foundation:

  Today's post is a collaboration between our seasoned blog writer and our new intern.  A welcome to this new writer for Manchaug Pond and the Foundation - we look forward to reading future posts and seeing the results of the young involvement!

Friday, May 24, 2013

BIG Raffle Tickets on Sale Now!

Remember our BIG BOAT Raffles? The reverse drawing with the loosing numbers drawn first - on rubber duckies in a pool?  And the winner had a choice of a brand new boat or a pocket of cash?

Well our BIG RAFFLE is back!   This year the prize is not a boat but a trip to a location of your choice worth up to $5,000!  The winner can choose the travel voucher or $4,000 CA$H!  We've made it easier to play, with the best odds and ticket price... up to 100 tickets will be sold - no more than that!  And the price per ticket has been slashed in half at $100.

So are you in?  Great odds, great price, great fun at the drawing, and a great cause! You can go in with a family or a friend!
For tickets see a MPF Board member or email and we will get a ticket delivered to your door!

Thanks for your part in preserving Manchaug Pond!

Send your donations to MPF, P.O. Box 154, Manchaug, MA  01526 or make our Paypal button dance! 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Now flowering in the Manchaug Pond watershed: Pink Lady's Slipper

Pink Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium acaule) is flowering now in the acidic forests around Manchaug Pond. This particular plant is growing on a steep slope at the base of an oak tree in the woods of Douglas.
Check out this link from the US Forest Service for more info about this orchid.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Worcester Telegram Editorial on the Beaton Farm Property

The following is an editorial from the Worcester Telegram. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Common ground

A ‘view shed’ in Sutton on the block

This much is certain: The Beaton Farm property in Sutton offers a magnificent and unspoiled view of Manchaug Pond from historic Waters Farm.

But when it comes to the eleventh-hour battle to “save the land from development,” it is much less clear that the property is in dire danger.

On the one hand, local conservationists, spearheaded by the Manchaug Pond Foundation, are hoping to raise $1.32 million by July 16 to buy 76 acres on behalf of the town, thus preserving it in perpetuity. On the other hand, the College of the Holy Cross has offered $1.9 million to the owners to purchase the 76 acres plus acreage along the pond’s shore, for siting a retreat center.

Often, tussles over New England’s vanishing landscape are stark choices between leaving the land as is, or letting it sprout single-family homes.

There’s no doubt that if Holy Cross obtains the property, some development will take place, but if the college’s plans are as advertised, a 30,000-square-foot retreat center can probably coexist with the woods, wildlife and sense of place that makes the area so special. It would, indeed, make little sense for Holy Cross to put down $1.9 million plus the costs of site development, only to destroy the very essence of the parcel itself.

There’s a common goal here — preserving a precious bit of old New England for many generations to come. We believe both sides share that understanding. Whichever side makes the purchase, we believe the Beaton Farm property has a long and happy future ahead of it.

Herons, Manchaug Pond, and the Neighboring Rookery

A Heron on a dock on Manchaug Pond - archive photo

Herons are a common sight on Manchaug Pond: fishing coves, standing on docks and shoreline boulders and flying low over the water to a quiet place.

 To see where they are nesting, just take a car ride north and west of Manchaug Pond heading toward Oxford.

Heron rookery located just outside Manchaug Pond watershed in Oxford, Massachusetts

 As you head west on Central Turnpike you'll enter Oxford, passing Douglas Pike and  Joe Jenny Road on the left. Keep looking to the left and you will see a large area of water and dead trees.  This wetlands was created by a number of years ago by beavers flooding the forest. 

Those dead trees now bear the large stick nests of herons! A driveby reveals the adults standing tall in the nest with other adults flying east to and from area ponds and wetlands.
Closeup of females in the nests.
In addition to Manchaug Pond, herons are frequent visitors to Aldrich Mill Pond at the inlet of Manchaug, the bordering trout ponds on the Beaton Farm Property in Sutton as well as neighboring Stevens Pond downstream and Oxford's Robinson Pond west of the rookery.
A heron on a fallen tree on Aldrich Mill Pond just up from Manchaug Pond.

Monday, May 20, 2013

TO DO LIST for Lovers of Manchaug Pond!

My Action Items - Today the lake is my priority!

Preserve Beaton Farm - all 100+ acres of fields, forests, and shoreline!
1. TAKE A STAND!  Yes, I support MPF's effort to preserve the shoreline, water, and watershed!

VOTE in the poll on the sidebar at the right!  Comment here, and on Facebook as to what Manchaug Pond means to you!

2. MAKE A DONATION - Dig deep!  I CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE! Manchaug Pond NEEDS ME and MPF needs me with them and behind them!

Love Manchaug Pond?  Be a part of the rescue!  Join the MPF to preserve the entire parcel, farmlands, forest, and the 875 ft of waterfront.  

No donation is too small or too big.  Today send your check to MPF, P. O. Box 154, Manchaug, MA, USA  01526-0154 or use the Paypal button on the sidebar.   MPF needs to cover required closing costs: title, surveying and marking, wetlands delineation and flagging, legal fees, etc.

3. SPREAD THE WORD!  I'm going to tell everyone I know what is going on and ask them to help me save our lake!

We can do this!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Sunday Telegram Tells Beaton Farm Story

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Group races to save Sutton landscape

A robin takes flight from a fence post on land the Manchaug Pond Association wants to save from development. (T&G Staff/RICK CINCLAIR)
The Manchaug Pond Foundation is racing to raise $1.32 million by July 16 to buy the Beaton Farm Property overlooking Manchaug Pond. (T&G Staff/RICK CINCLAIR)

SUTTON —  There is hardly a more classic rural New England landscape than in Sutton.

Rolling hills unfold in a patchwork of fields and stone walls. Weathered barns stand against the wind. Orchards, dairy and horse farms dot knolls sloping to sparkling ponds.

That view — and the town's cultural heritage — is changing, as open space succumbs to development.

Selectman Michael A. Chizy, who serves as board chairman, has lived in town almost 60 years.

“Where cornfields used to be, now there's houses,” he said.

Another quintessential parcel, the 100-acre Beaton Farm Property that was once part of historic Waters Farm, overlooking Manchaug Pond, may be the next to be developed.

The current owner, who has received property tax benefits for 73 acres on the site under the state Chapter 61A program for agricultural land, plans to sell the property. Under state law, when land comes out of agricultural, forestry or recreation space protection, the town has the right of first refusal to buy the land.

Selectmen agreed April 16 that the town was not in a position to purchase the parcel, but assigned the nonprofit Manchaug Pond Foundation to act on its behalf to try to raise $1.32 million by July 16, the deadline set by law, to buy the 73 acres.

“Taxes have gone up,” Mr. Chizy said. “People can only afford so much. I don't think the town would purchase it (if money couldn't be raised privately).”

The College of the Holy Cross has submitted a $1.9 million proposal to purchase the full 100 acres, including 73 acres under Chapter 61A, plus roughly 26 acres along the pond in Douglas, on which to build a 30,000-square-foot retreat center.

Ellen M. Ryder, director of public affairs for Holy Cross, said, “It is so beautiful. It's what attracted us to it in the first place.”

She said that retreat and contemplation are an integral part of a faith-based education. The college used to hold one-day or overnight retreats, often conducted in silence, at a facility in Narragansett, R.I., but that site was no longer available. Since the 1980s, students and staff have had to travel at least an hour to other locations.

Phyllis M. Charpentier, corresponding secretary for the Manchaug Pond Foundation, said the group has nothing against the college.

But she wants to preserve the scenic open space that is enjoyed by visitors from all over, the historic quarry in the woods that once supplied Blackstone Valley mills with stone, the pristine trout ponds and brooks that run through the property to 875 feet of shoreline on Manchaug Pond, and the working stables that house 19 miniature horses.

“If we do not succeed, everything will be sold: the house, the barn, 26 acres abutting the pond and the fields,” Ms. Charpentier said. “We're looking to keep it undeveloped so the streams feeding Manchaug Pond stay as they are now. It's the last quiet cove.”

Marty Jo Henry, Manchaug Pond Foundation's first vice president, said the land was a priority habitat for endangered species and served as a wildlife corridor linking Sutton State Forest and Douglas State Forest. She has photographed bald eagles, osprey and heron soaring overhead there.

“It's a big stopping point for migrating ducks heading up to Canada,” Ms. Henry said.

The stone-wall-bordered overlook at the top of the fields, with a panoramic vista of the 380-acre Manchaug Pond below, provides an ideal viewing spot for bird watchers and others, including wedding couples who have portraits taken there.

That “viewshed” was highlighted a dozen years ago in the master plan for Waters Farm, a living-history farm preserved to portray 19th-century agrarian life. The Waters homestead, which was built in 1757 by Stephen Waters and is on the National Register of Historic Places, is across the road from Beaton Farm and looks out onto the fields and hillside to Manchaug Pond.

National Park Service Ranger Chuck Arning said, “You'd like to see the way it might have been in the 1800s.”

He cited passages from the Waters Farm master plan: “This amazing view is a powerful experience for the first-time visitor because it is so unexpected and so dramatic. The view is evocative of how the land may have looked more than 250 years ago — regardless of its actual appearance. The momentary sensation of being in another time anchors Waters Farm in the mind of the visitor as an important place, a place where you can feel connected to the past through the power of this unique setting and experience. Preservation of views should be a primary goal.”

But preservation takes money, time and a lot of hard work.

“The problem is, we need such a large amount of money in such a short time,” said Andrew J. Mosher, Manchaug Pond Foundation treasurer.

“The situation the foundation finds itself in, scrambling to pull together funds to purchase open space before it is sold for development, isn't uncommon, according to Rob Warren, Massachusetts director of protection and policy for The Nature Conservancy.

“I think it's important for people to understand that lands that are enrolled in Chapter 61 programs are not permanently protected lands. That's at the discretion of the landowner,” he said.

Mr. Warren said that because these properties typically become available on short notice, many land trusts work with landowners ahead of time to get them thinking about placing their property in permanent protection, through conservation restrictions, donation or sale to a conservation organization.

Towns that have adopted the Community Preservation Act, which Sutton has not, may be in a better financial position to acquire open space. The Community Preservation Act creates local funds, through a surcharge of up to 3 percent on real estate levies, for preserving open space and historic sites, promoting affordable housing and developing outdoor recreation facilities.

Open space committees can also plan strategically for land acquisition.

“Any of that sort of foresight is helpful, Mr. Warren said. “Having planning in place ahead of time helps a community respond. The 'white knight' is a true rarity,” he said, referring to a donor who swoops in to help buy land.

He added that towns should be aware of the economic benefits of protecting land, which costs far less over time than providing services for developed parcels, despite the additional tax revenue.

Contact Susan Spencer at Follow her on Twitter @SusanSpencerTG.

Sacred Sunday- This week on Manchaug Pond!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Today's Cleanup Draws 21 Volunteers!

On this beautiful spring day, beginning with coffee, donuts and a bowl of fresh fruit, 21 volunteers joined forces at the state boat ramp on Torrey Road, Sutton today from 9:00AM to 2:00PM to fan out cleanning the roadsides, ramp and shoreline of Manchaug Pond.

Coordinated by the Manchaug Pond Foundation, the cleanup included trash pick up on roadsides including Lackey Road, Manchaug Road from Central Turnpike to Torrey Road, Torrey Road to Holt Road in Sutton and then on to Oak Street in Douglas.

A team with "heavy equipment" focused on the public boat ramp clearing branches from lawn areas, leaves and other debris from gutters, and trash from the property.

Cooperating in the effort was the town of Sutton Highway Dept. who supplied a town truck for disposal of the trash.

Volunteer hours will count toward our upcoming s. 319 Nonpoint Pollution Grant.

A couple cars also pulled up asking for information on the MPF and how they could join our efforts!  As Sutton residents they loved the lake and enjoyed boating and one local family camps at a Manchaug Pond campground!

If you would like to be on the mailing list - email with your name, address and email address and we'll get you on our lists!

 Welcome aboard!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Beaton Farm Property ...

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Outdoors: Hoping someone can save this land from development by July

Today’s column was supposed to be about great fishing — the first big surge of stripers, mackerel, squid, the Canal, Barnstable Harbor, huge flocks of terns feeding over bait, tired casting arms, local mayfly hatches, and shad runs.

That news is temporarily on hold for a much more urgent matter. A Sutton wildlife treasure is on the precipice of development. It’s the bottom of the ninth for Beaton Farm. Without immediate intervention — i.e., $1.325 million — we’re going to lose it forever.

July 16 is D-Day. Without someone coming to the rescue and having all formalities completed by that date, Holy Cross stands ready to take over the land — and build on it.

In lieu of what could or should have been done long before now, we need a deus ex machina — a wealthy benefactor or a conservation rescue team from the DCR, MassWildlife, MassAudubon, the Nature Conservancy, a land trust or Trustees of Reservations — to again step in at the proverbial last minute, as some have done so many times in the past. But most public and private organizations are now cash-strapped. Many Wall Streeters and Dow manipulators could do it, but they live in a different neighborhood. It’s sad that local steps were not taken in time to address a moment like this.

Some residents tell me it’s a pity conservation leadership was never persuasive or had enough foresight in Sutton to establish a land trust, as neighboring towns like Grafton successfully have done to step in when urgent cases arise.

I’ve heard desperate suggestions that the town of Sutton could yet agree to purchase the land and then create a limited development so there would be no new taxes and the majority of the land could be saved. The town of Grafton did so with the Hennessey Farm not long ago. It’s not a perfect solution, in that frontage land is generally sacrificed. But at least with that scenario, a majority of the wild land could be preserved.

Because of inaction, though, the continued existence of Beaton Farm — “the jewel of Sutton,” as many residents lovingly refer to it — is now improbable. The land may well be a Hopeless Diamond. The unique, nearly 100-acre property with 875 feet of shoreline on Manchaug Pond has a breathtaking hilltop view. The town of Sutton, having recently spent money on a new school, allegedly didn’t care to further increase residents’ taxes to save the land for its future generations. Many share that without selectmen leading the way, there remains little hope.

Residents have told me that the land is crying out for preservation for future generations. Manchaug Pond Foundation’s Phyllis Charpentier writes that its hilltop overlook of stonewalls, fields and forest provides a stunning scenic view of the lake. Its network of streams and small ponds are cold-water fisheries habitat for native brook trout and tributaries, which feed the lake. I know it has turkeys and deer. The late Brad Beaton, former owner and hunter, was a great steward of that land.

A large portion of the farm, I’m told, is priority habitat for endangered species as designated by the state Natural Heritage Endangered Species program. Located in the Lake Manchaug Greenway and Wildlife Corridor, the Beaton Farm is a valuable wildlife link that presently prevents fragmentation between the Sutton State Forest, Purgatory Chasm State Park and Douglas State Forest. Large, contiguous tracts like these properties are even more valuable in their collective totality, exponentially increasing their wildlife’s security and productivity. When contiguous areas of this magnitude area diminish in size, their wildlife value diminishes proportionately.

Charpentier further notes that this property directly abuts the 120 acres of Sutton conservation land on the Waters Farm, a 1757 homestead on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

The Sutton Board of Selectman assigned the Manchaug Pond Foundation the town’s right of first refusal to purchase 73 acres held under Chapter 61A. To save the farm, the foundation needs to raise $1.3 million and close by July 16 — or, as Charpentier fears, “the entire property will be lost forever to development. Should we fail, Holy Cross has signed a purchase-and-sales agreement with an initial 30,000-square-foot facility planned.”

Anyone capable of helping save this land should immediately contact the Manchaug Pond Foundation president David Schmidt at (508) 981-3820 or treasurer Andrew Mosher at (508) 865-6242.

Timing is everything. According to Ken Crater of the Grafton Land Trust, if the Trust for Public Land had been contacted earlier — before the town assigned its right of first refusal — it could have tried to engineer a solution, assuming Sutton would consider making an investment.

Crater suggests the best hope now may be to work with Holy Cross, encouraging the school to preserve conservation land and buffers to the pond in the permitting process. The crusade to save this land now needs some real Crusaders to do the right thing for our local wildlife and future generations.

Let’s go ’Saders!

Contact Mark Blazis at

Monday, May 13, 2013

Attention Sutton Voters: Manchaug Pond needs you!

Sutton voters! Manchaug Pond needs you to attend tonight's town meeting, Monday, May 13th at 7:30 PM at the Early Learning Center.  Vote YES on the warrant article that splits the boat excise tax revenue between the two Sutton public lakes - Manchaug Pond and Lake Singletary.

See you there and bring a friend!

UPDATE: Passed unanimously!


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